08/04/2014 01:49 pm ET Updated Oct 04, 2014

The State of Happiness: Are You There?


A report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Research recently named the "happiest cities" in our nation. The state of Louisiana won the jackpot on joy with four happiest places out of 10: Lafayette (#3), Baton Rouge (#5), Shreveport (#7) and Houma (#8). Other states high on happiness, depending on which of the lists you read, include: Virginia (Charlottesville and Richmond) and Texas (Houston and Corpus Christi).

My own back yard, New York City, was lowest on the totem pole of the happy poll. It seems the "city that never sleeps" and the "crossroads of the world" has a lot of grumpy and cross residents.

I think where we reside contributes to, or detracts from, our happiness depending on our living conditions. Places filled with happier people tend to make other people happy. Places where people are competitive and crowded up against each other tend to make other people discontent. But there are plenty of happy people in New York City and unhappy people in Louisiana, and everywhere else.

I recently returned from trips to New Orleans (not on the list) and Nashville (on the list) where everyone seemed very happy. Maybe it's the warmer weather, laissez- faire attitude and legendary music in both cities that puts a joyful song in the residents' hearts. People seem genuinely happy to live in these two cities and even happier to welcome visitors.

I see many people who live in New York City spend a lot of time working long hours to cover the cost of their expensive apartments and city life only to dash out of them on Fridays to go to second homes at the beach or country to get away and relax.

Usually a happy city it is where there are a lower cost of living, access to quality education and cultural activities, jobs to keep people employed, natural beauty and a caring community. But, even in the happiest places there will be unhappy people.

Happiness is not the state you live in, or any location. It is the state of mind that lives within you. If you are truly a happy person the euphoric feeling will be with you anywhere you go. People and places can make you feel happier. But someone who is truly not happy with herself will feel miserable just about anywhere.

I think the people who are happiest simply may have more manageable expectations on what they expect from themselves or from other people. They live in a state of mental satisfaction versus emotional suspension. They spend more time being active and involved with their community, colleagues or friends rather than isolated or dwelling on what could or should be. They have expectations in life but maybe they just don't expect too much or dwell on the downside if things don't happen as planned.

People with lower expectations do not necessarily have lower standards about what they believe in or expect of themselves or others. They appreciate quality and, especially, quality of life. Their standards of measuring what quality means may be different and perfectly fine to them. People with high expectations don't always have the best standards of quality. Some are never happy because nothing is ever good enough.

Maybe some people are less happy because they are always competing with their own elevated expectations of personal social, and financial fulfillment that define what they consider "quality of life."

You really don't need to achieve a thing to be truly happy, and life does not owe you anything. Life simple leases you some time on Earth to do what you want with it. You hold the keys that can free your mind, open your heart and unlock your happiness... or not.

What state would you rather live in?